The Office, The Sopranos and Other Families

UPDATE:

As of February 10, 2008, the Being a Mom is Great blog has moved here (www.soapboxmom.com). Please visit Soapbox Mom to read more articles by this author (bmg mom is now Soapboxmom).

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Tony Soprano (HBO)

I love The Office starring Steve Carell. It’s an NBC series about everyday life in an office in smalltown USA (actually Scranton, PA) but it has something in common with The Sopranos. Yes, really. Part of the magic of The Sopranos was that the lead character, Tony Soprano, in many ways represented any-man USA. He could have been the head of a major corporation or a power partner in a law firm. I know he wasn’t…I mean he was the head of a family which happened to be involved in organized crime. But the point is that the series creator, David Chase, humanized Tony. It’s kind of the opposite of war mentality – soldiers are taught to dehumanize the enemy to make the vicious acts of war more tolerable. Chase did the opposite, he humanized a vicious criminal to somehow make him endearing.

Michael Scott (played by Steve Carell) NBC

Ricky Gervais is the genius behind The Office. He created the original (English/UK) version and still has a big role in the American version. In my opinion, he works the same kind of magic with the character of Michael Scott.

Not that he humanizes a criminal, but rather, I think the workings of his office are often analogous to the workings of a family. Yes, I know, that would make the mom (in most families) Michael, the manager of the office. And that’s not a good thing. He’s an example of everything you don’t want in a manager.

So, I’m not saying that I want to be like him or that I parent the way he manages. Rather, he experiences situations to which I really can relate. Take, for example, the episode where he wants to order pizza for the office members. They’re excited for this relatively rare delight and seem happy about it and eager for its arrival until one of the members tries to clarify precisely which kind of pizza they should be expecting — pizza from Alfredo’s Pizza Cafe or Pizza by Alfredo. They all love Alfredo’s Pizza Cafe but they all hate Pizza by Alfredo. So, when Michael says he ordered from Pizza by Alfredo, they all groan.

Okay, stop there!

The Office (NBC)

How many moms can honestly say they haven’t experienced something similar to that little situation? A group of kids are in your house at dinnertime and you say you ordered pizza. They all say, “Great!” Then one of your kids says, “Where did you order it from? Pizza Hut or Dominos?” (or whatever pizza places you have where you live) You answer one or the other and the kids all say, “Awww. That’s not the good kind of pizza. We like [the other one] way more!”

Okay, now back to the episode of The Office. Michael drops his head and simply says, “Harumpf. Okay…” Then figures out what to do next. He’s the doormat I’ve been too many times in my short career as a mom.

But the most recent episode, Money, was different. Different from any I can remember (and I think I’ve seen them all). It struck me as…well…sad. It’s a comedy, right? But so many things happened that made members of my family look at each other and say, “Aww…” For example, the office geek, Dwight, is distraught over a recent breakup and finds himself wailing in a stairwell. Office manager, Michael, has serious financial problems, tries to take on a second job but fails miserably, then tries (and fails) to run away on a freight train. Just when it’s looking its bleakest, the episode turns the corner with touching moments of caring and support.

Isn’t that the way many, many families operate? When times are really tough, our family members or friends are there to emotionally support us. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it ’til I die…this life is all about love. It’s not about the snazzy cars or the bling or the handbag that costs thousands of dollars. It’s not about bossing people around or pushing your kids to be the best on the sports team or the smartest in the class.

No matter whether you’re the head of a crime family, an office manager or a mom, when you’re 85 (God willing) and you’re sitting in a rocking chair somewhere (I really hope I have a cool rocking chair when I’m 85) and someone asks you if you have any regrets, I sure hope you’re able to answer with a smile on your face and a twinkle in your eye, “Oh, no. I’ve really enjoyed my life.” If you take a moment right now, right this very minute, to just imagine what that would be like…what do you hear yourself saying?? If the answer is yes (with a lengthy list of regrets), I would compassionately suggest that you get to work on ridding yourself of those regrets…whatever they may be. If it’s “I wish I would have gone sky diving. I always wanted to go skydiving.” Then, heck do a little research and figure out how you could make that happen. If it’s “I wish I would have told my kids I loved them more.” Then, well, you know what to do. Whatever it is, take care of it today. It’s worth it. You’ll be happy you did.

As for me, I’m going to stop taking myself so darn seriously and work on letting go. And if Michael reminds me of myself in any way, I won’t get defensive, I’ll just smile.

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Images from hbo.com and nbc.com.

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